The predictions for 2014 are starting to roll out and the Dodgers are the overwhelming favorite to win the World Series. I expect they'll be picked by many of ESPN's experts when their predictions come out soon. While it makes sense that everyone thinks they'll be really good, I think they're being overhyped. We saw it last year with the Nationals and Tigers, and we know how that turned out.
One prediction I'm sure will be true is that they'll have excellent pitching. They always have great pitching, having been ranked in the top 5 in team ERA each of the last 3 years. What about offense? I doubt the numbers will be overwhelming. That's fine, because they can still win 95 games without a great offense, but it is clearly a factor.
Since 2011, they've been ranked 21st, 26th and 17th in runs scored. Even in the 2nd half of 2013 (when they had the best record in baseball), they only were ranked 9th in runs scored. Their lineup is solid and they can score a lot of runs if several players have career years, but that's highly uncertain.
There are some huge question marks that will help determine whether they'll be truly great. One is obviously Yasiel Puig. Over his 4 months in the big leagues last year, he hit .436, .287, .320 and .214. He hit .333 in the postseason, but only had 2 extra base hits in 39 AB (and 0 HR). Another big question is what they'll get out of Matt Kemp. If he comes back and plays like he did a few years ago, it will give them a huge boost. Considering all of the injuries he's sustained, that doesn't seem very likely.
The Dodgers probably won't hit many home runs this year. Teams can certainly win without a lot of power (Giants won in 2012 being ranked last in HR), but it will make it more difficult to score runs.
They also had kind of a quiet offseason. On the other hand, they'll probably have plenty of money to acquire players through trades if they have to. There are still plenty of questions about whether their manager is ready to take them to the next level.
None of this means that they shouldn't be favored to win the NL West or even the pennant. It just means that they've become a trendy pick this year and the hype they're getting doesn't match up with reality. I wouldn't be surprised to see a rematch in the NLCS this year, and the Cardinals will still probably find a way to win. They're going to be very good, but I'm not buying into the idea that they're the overwhelming favorite to win the World Series.